Fine Art Connoisseur

TINTORETTO AT 500

“Like Columbus, he went where the familiar winds were of no use, to discover new worlds,” wrote Marco Boschini, a 17th-century biographer of the artist Jacopo Tintoretto (1518/19–1594).

Although Tintoretto opened up grand new vistas in painting, his artistic adventures took place almost entirely in Venice. He was the only one of the greatest Venetian masters of the 16th century to be born in the city itself, and, unlike his rivals Titian and Veronese, he seldom set foot outside it. Nonetheless, his fame and influence spread far beyond Venice’s lagoon, and now an unprecedented number of his works are crossing the Atlantic to appear alongside those already in U.S. collections.

When Tintoretto died in May 1594, his age was recorded as 75, suggesting he was born in 1518 or 1519. The 500th anniversary of his birth will be celebrated this spring at Washington’s National Gallery of Art with a splendid exhibition, Tintoretto: Artist of Renaissance Venice (March 10–July 7). Premiered this past season at the Doge’s Palace in Venice, it has been curated by the independent scholar Robert Echols and Frederick Ilchman (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston); together they edited its catalogue, which will surely remain the definitive volume on Tintoretto for the foreseeable future.

The Washington exhibition contains 45 paintings and 11 (1549), which, thanks to its first conservation treatment in 50 years, has emerged as a far more significant work than was previously realized.

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